‘Lack of political will main roadblock for women’s quota bill’

March 7th, 2009 - 10:07 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, March 7 (IANS) In an era of coalition politics, the lack of political will is the biggest roadblock in passing the Women’s Reservation Bill in parliament, panelists at a discussion here Saturday said.
“Major political parties say they are ready to pass the bill. But they lack the political will (to pass it),” Rajya Sabha member Najma Heptullah said during the discussion on “Elections 2009 and Beyond: The Women’s Agenda” at the Indian Women’s Press Corps.

A bill on reserving 33 percent of the seats in parliament and the state assemblies was introduced in the Rajya Sabha last May. It was referred to a parliamentary panel, whose head E.M.S. Sudarsana Natchiappan has been quoted as saying it would become a reality only after the April-May general elections

Heptullah criticised President Pratibha Patil for not referring to a wide-enough cross section of women during her address to the joint session of parliament in February.

“We are very happy that we have a woman president. But there was nothing about women in the presidential address,” she said.

She also noted that India was one of the few countries in the world where so many women were at the helm of major political parties.

Citing the example of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati (Bahujan Samaj Party), AIADMK leader Jayalalitha and Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress, Heptullah said: “But nothing is happening in the favour of women.”

Communist Party of India-Marxist MP Hannan Mollah said no government was sincere about passing the Women’s Reservation Bill.

“The government is able to pass 90 percent of the bills introduced in parliament. Then why not the Women’s Reservation Bill?” he asked.

“Women should take a stern decision in this election that they would vote only for the parties that promises 33 percent reservation,” Mollah maintained.

Social worker Suman Krishnakanth said quota is a right granted in the constitution.

“Educated women should come forward to fight for that right,” she contended.

Indu Agnihotri, senior fellow at the Centre for Women’s Development Studies, criticised the media for not adequately highlighting women’s issues.

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